Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Do something.

It has always been a challenge for me to accept the presumed dichotomy between doing and being. I mean, really, think about it. Being is the thing that takes no effort. Breath in, breath out. And there you are. You are being. You are not asked if you want to be, or not to be. You simply are. No one does it better than someone else. In fact, being is the great leveler

There does seem to be a kind of tension between action and, well, what exactly? There is something of our life that is about choices and actions, and something that is about the mystery of being.

In some of my circles, the narrative in Luke’s Gospel about what Martha and Mary, two friends of Jesus, did while he was teaching, is thought to be all about doing vs. being.

As if Mary, the sister of the hostess who sat listening to the rabbi is the example of someone who is “being” (read:  good) and Martha, the one who opened her home to guests and was busy preparing a meal as the one who is the model of someone who is “doing” (read:  bad).

The issue may have been the scale of preparations that Martha felt necessary. Was it a question of honoring Jesus?  A bit extravagant? A little OCD on the hospitality scale? Jesus said: “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Whatever Martha was doing, Luke says she was distracted.

From listening to Jesus.

But that is not a choice between doing and being. Her sister also made a choice, and she was doing something.

Listening to Jesus.

What are you going to do today, the things that “have to be done”? and the things that ought to be done? Catalysts and dreamers who create things don’t like to sit still for long.  But hopefully today will be one of those days where I get the values right.

A man for whom I had great respect, Pastor Thomas would pray in the morning: “Lord don’t let me miss my assignment today.” As if God wants to have something to say about how the day unrolls.

Lord, have mercy on me. I am listening.
The illusion wanes, and in time we return
to our noisy cities where the blue
appears only in fragments
high up among the towering shapes.
Then rain leaching the earth.
Tedious, winter burdens the roofs,
and light is a miser, the soul bitter.
Yet, one day through an open gate,
among the green luxuriance of a yard,
the yellow lemons fire
and the heart melts,
and golden songs pour
into the breast
from the raised cornets of the sun.

from "The Lemon Trees"
by Eugenio Montale
(Translated by Lee Gerlach)